Go ahead - laugh, shake your head and wonder just what the hell is going on in this woman's head.
So of course you have to pay the big Times Select bucks to read the whole thing, but Ron gives a good overview and here's the opening line from the piece: "Chick lit â€” no longer a niche â€” has staged a coup of the literature shelves."
Ron pretty much covers all the many reasons why this Op-Ed piece is ridiculous and, as far as I'm concerned, stupid, but the part that kills me is this quote from Dowd's buddy (who accompanied her into the Chick Lit jungle), Leon Wieseltier:
"These books do not seem particularly demanding in the manner of real novels... And when we're at war and the country is under threat, they seem a little insular. America's reading women could do a lot worse than to put down Will Francine Get Her Guy? and pick up The Red Badge of Courage."
Can you imagine a more judgemental pseudo-intellectual, arrogant, obnoxious statement than that? The irony that they would be talking about people who read Chick Lit and write a column about it - instead of maybe writing a column about the dangerous sabre rattling that is going on between the US and Iran, the multiple abuses of power that have occured in Iraq, the degrading situation in New Orleans, and on and on apparently escapes the two intrepid literary explorers. Hell, it would have been a better use of Dowd's column inches to write about poor Anna Nicole Smith and the degrading impact of reality tv then blast chick lit.
And for the record Leon, in the past week I have read Tim O'Brien's If I Die in a Combat Zone, Jenny Diski's Skating to Antarctica, and David Griffith's A Good War is Hard to Find (a reread as I'm currently writing a review of the book which includes an interview with the author). Should I feel guilty that I am enjoying the hell out of Isabel Wolff's Rescuing Rose right now? I don't think so.
In other news, Ed wrote a rather interesting piece the other day that used the NBCC's John Freeman as a jumping off point to discuss just how personally revealing you should be in your writing and also how some writers are good at those kind of revelations while others most certainly are not. I've read some of Freeman's essays in the past and they don't completely ring true to me - especially compared to a powerhouse like O'Brien - but I found Freeman's comments at the NBCC site last week to be much odder than anything else he has written. Frankly it just seems inappropriate to take a conflict over a nominee choice to blog comments. As NBCC President shouldn't he just have emailed the nominating committee or even called them on the phone with his thoughts? And the part where he challenged the members to admit their level of Muslim knowledge: "I'd be curious to know how many of my fellow NBCC board members who voted for this book have been inside a Muslim household, let alone a Muslim country?" is just flat out bizarre. All of this was for internal discussion, not an internet blog and they shouldn't be surprised that the whole thing made its way in rapid order to the New York Times.
I also find it rather odd that while the NBCC made a big point of stating "...we will delete all anonymous comments, and (per our usual policy) we will delete any comment that is insulting, abusive or otherwise impolite" after they were hit with some negative backlash over their list of nominees earlier this year, they choose to keep a comment up below Freeman's postings from a rather angry blogger who states, among other things, that "Islam is a cult, it worships a madman, prophecies come at opportune times to extricate the madman from difficult positions, victimization is the rule, and followers who step out of line or wish to leave are killed."
Okay, that's helpful for intelligent discussion on a book.
Finally, for those of you who remember the big discussion about whether reviewers are beholden to publishers for accepting review copies, the folks in the comic book industry are having a dust-up over the very same thing. It starts here, with a rather angry letter from a creator to reviewer Joanna Draper Carlson and then continues through the comments and then picks up with another entry from Joanna over whether or not she's "grateful enough" for her review copies.
Read and enjoy. I'll be back tomorrow with an update on the YSRT Awards (still accepting nominations!) and also something all you kid lit bloggers can do with your ARCs that would help a lot of kids in New Orleans.
UPDATE: Justine wails on Dowd over at her site. It's all great but here's my favorite bit:
Why the endless deriding of this genre? Why aren't there people getting het up about the pernicious influence of techno thrillers? Some of those are shockingly written, but I've never seen a columnist lose any sleep over how well those books sell, or the fact that they're mostly written and read by men. In all genres there are many badly written books. Including mainstream literature. What makes chicklit so evil?
Also how come it counts as journalism to walk around a bookshop mouthing off ignorantly about a genre you know nothing about, grabbing three dozen of them to take home, flip through, and then mock in your newspaper column?
Why did it not occur to Dowd to interview some of the writers, editors, publishers and consumers of the genre? Or to ask them what their faves are and why? Too much hard work for you, Ms Dowd?
Why does Dowd not explain exactly what's wrong with the existence of chicklit? I mean, seriously, what is the point of her column? Why is she so threatened by the colour pink?
UPDATE 2: You can read Dowd's whole column here.